Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Escaping the Tour


Jean and Delsa had come to the Valley with a Naturalists’ Journeys tour, but wanted a day to break away and do some serious photography, so they were game to go to the “must go” spot this time of year for bird photography:  the Salineño feeders!  It was a gorgeous, calm day, and right in the parking area a Bewick’s Wren sang and briefly showed himself!  As we walked in and circled around Merle and Lois’ RV, I couldn’t believe my ears:  an Audubon’s Oriole was singing right over our heads!  We found him in the Huisache tree, and the girls were thrilled to get some shots of him amongst the yellow flowers!

Audubon's Oriole (listen carefully for his song!)

I didn’t even set my beeper this time, as I assured them that they could spend all day here if they chose!  We ended up spending two hours there and it flew; besides the regulars (and yes, even “Baldy” came in and hogged the little stump J), Mike pointed out a huge kettle of vultures overhead (mostly Turkeys with a couple of Blacks), and the local Sharp-shinned Hawk terrorized the group at one point, but the biggest event was a sudden squawking coming from the back area:  a Roadrunner had nabbed a blackbird!  That was a first (for me, anyway – Mike related that they had seen Roadrunners nab all sorts of stuff, usually House Sparrows…)!  

Everyone settles in to enjoy the show!

Altamira Oriole is a big draw...

...as is Baldy the Audubon's Oriole!

Green Jay

Great Kiskadee

White-winged Dove

"Whatcha got??"

Long-billed Thrasher

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Here a Kiskadee tries to intimidate the woodpecker off his orange!

"You don't scare me!"

"Okay, you can have a little, but I'm keeping my eye on you!"

"Was that the hawk??"

"Sigh..." says the Kiskadee as Mr. Woodpecker goes back to hogging the orange...

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Olive Sparrow

The Kiskadees are actually better at making strafing runs at the peanut butter!


Black-crested Titmouse

Warner Brothers got it all wrong when they showed Beep Beep eating bird seed!  
(©2020 by Jean Hall)

When the girls finally wanted a change of venue, we drove down to the Rio Grande and hiked the Seedeater Trail.  The river had zilch besides Gadwall and Ospreys, and the trail was pretty quiet; I thought I heard the seedeater give its downslurred whistle, but then a titmouse starting singing a similar whistle (plus the redwings can do that, too), and it never did call again, so we sadly had to let that one go…  We planned on giving the trail end a 15 minute vigil; right away a Black Phoebe peeped and flopped around near the culvert when a Gray Hawk called and circled overhead, causing the girls to go scrambling up that steep and sandy hill after it!  Since we were up there, we looked for the Barn Owl in his hole in the bank, but it looked empty… The Osprey was still there calling, and also heard a Lesser Goldfinch singing that we never saw (Delsa, since living on the west coast, would have liked to have seen our Black-backed variety).  On the way back we flushed a covey of Bobwhite, which went running back into the brush, dashing any hopes of some pictures… L  However, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was cooperative as well as a White-eyed Vireo!  We decided to have lunch back at feeders where the previously missed Orange-crowned Warbler came in.

White-eyed Vireo

Climbing the hill

Back at the feeders, the young Altamira comes in to indulge!

Orange-crowned Warbler

The Golden-fronted Woodpecker is back (notice that he's airborne)!

The lady Ladderback has no red on the head, unlike her hubby...

After that we crawled the Dump Road, which was also pretty quiet except for an extremely cooperative Verdin that came right in!  A Caracara flew overhead, but there were no Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, and the singing Black-throated Sparrow near the end of the road was uncharacteristically uncooperative.  We did pick up a pair of Eastern Meadowlarks near the field, and had a distant view of a Roadrunner as it crossed the road, but he ignored my messin’…

Verdin  (©2020 by Jean Hall)

There had been some debate about going to the National Butterfly Center for the afternoon light, but decided to do Falcon State Park instead due to the time.  One of the girls spotted a small bird on the entrance road that turned out to be a Chipping Sparrow!  Instead of crawling along the whole route as I usually do, I decided to park in the campground and walk, as that worked well for photography when I had Jan with me  A lot of the campers were gone already, but some still had a water feature and food going; we logged Inca Doves, Cardinals, and tons of Orange-crowned Warblers and Butterbutts.  In between feeding flocks we discussed vireo mnemonics (they worked on remembering the White-eyed and got a kick out of the Bell’s J), but back at the car was a knockout male Pyrrhuloxia!  That was special, but the highlight was yet to be:  on the way out was a big group of Bobwhite right outside the car!  The girls were jazzed!  A Vermilion Flycatcher posed (Delsa said she had so many Vermy Fly pics that she didn’t even bother J), and there was nothing much in primitive area but Western Meadowlarks, so we went straight to the picnic area and walked the little trail at the end of the road where Savannah Sparrows predictably popped up near the rocks, and a Belted Kingfisher sat silently down by the lake.  

Chipping Sparrow - the gray rump is a good way to separate it from the Clay-colored Sparrow when the two can look very similar in non-breeding plumage!

Jean and Delsa after a prize!

Inca Dove


Several shots of the Bobwhite covey

Vermilion Flycatcher

The girls along the Picnic Area Loop Trail

We had to leave at that point but got distracted by another Roadrunner on the way out, and almost got clobbered by crazy drivers coming back (a guy was being nice on the freeway by slowing down to let another guy merge on, only guy #2 also slowed down to the point where both of them stopped dead on the freeway)!  


We ended the day with a modest 52 species, but with some great photos!  Bird list:

Plain Chachalaca
Northern Bobwhite
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Inca Dove
White-tipped Dove
White-winged Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Gray Hawk
Belted Kingfisher
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Black Phoebe
Vermilion Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
White-eyed Vireo
Green Jay
Black-crested Titmouse
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Bewick's Wren
European Starling
Long-billed Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
House Sparrow
Lesser Goldfinch
Olive Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Western Meadowlark
Eastern Meadowlark
Altamira Oriole
Audubon's Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Orange-crowned Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal

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